|Mind/Body Challenging Cases William Doherty Anxiety Wendy Behary Diets Clinical Excellence Couples Therapy Trauma Brain Science Mary Jo Barrett Linda Bacon Future of Psychotherapy Great Attachment Debate Attachment Theory CE Comments Mindfulness Community of Excellence Gender Issues Symposium 2012 Attachment Men in Therapy Couples Ethics The Future of Psychotherapy Etienne Wenger Narcissistic Clients Clinical Mastery David Schnarch Alan Sroufe|
|Clinicians Digest Jan/Feb 2007 - Page 6|
Considering Internet Pornography
Couples are increasingly complaining to therapists about a partner's online sexual activities (OSA). While pornography has always caused problems in some marriages, clinicians who work with couples' sexual problems insist there are profound differences between the Internet and other forms of pornography. "This isn't your papa's porn," says Jill Manning, a marital and family therapist in Broomfield, Colorado, who testified before a Senate subcommittee last November regarding the impact of Internet pornography on marriages and families. Its accessibility, affordability, and anonymity, she warns, put it within easy, frequent reach, and the virtual connection produces powerful physiological responses and cognitive associations that affect life offline.
However, other therapists who work with couples' sexuality believe that OSA per se isn't bad. Therapist Michael Freeny of Tampa, Florida, knows couples who share OSA openly with each other and with other online couples, with no adverse emotional effects and possibly some positive ones. "It's clearly the safest sex there is," he says. "The only virus you can catch is a computer one." But as with most things, context is important. One of Freeny's couples engaged in real-life swapping, but when the wife discovered her husband had been secretly chatting sexually with someone online, that betrayal brought them into therapy. Psychologist Al Cooper found that men who turned to OSA to relieve stress were more likely to report relationship problems than men who turned to it for companionship.
Manning is considerably less sanguine about OSA than Freeny. Her exhaustive review of the research reported in the April-September Journal of Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity leads her to conclude that OSA is associated with higher levels of marital dissatisfaction, infidelity, separation and divorce, and decreased marital sexual satisfaction and intimacy. She also worries that OSA among parents affects their children, diverting a father or mother's emotional energy from family involvement and increasing the risk of job loss, separation, and divorce. And because kids are more computer savvy than their parents, she says, they often know about their parents' "secret" OSA, which feeds their own fears, fantasies, and ideas about sexuality. In the same journal issue, a survey of 508 married heterosexual men who visited Internet sex chat rooms, led by assistant professor of counseling Brian Dew from Georgia State University, finds that the men engaged in OSA when their wives or children were home almost as much as when they weren't.